Lynwood High School ethnic studies students toured California State University, Long Beach, sat in on a history class, received student support advice and talked with CSULB students about African-American and Latino student life as part of the inaugural College Bridge: An Ethnic Studies Exchange, a collaboration between Lynwood High teacher Ana Orozco and her former CSULB professor, Emily Berquist, designed to introduce Orozco’s students to college life.
“As a senior and first-generation student, my experience was motivational,” Lynwood High senior Andrea Lopez said. “As a Latina I feel proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone and challenging myself for a better future. Everything is possible if you have the will to change.”
Orozco’s students prepared for Berquist’s history class by reading a passage that focused on the 18th century Tupac Amaru Indian resistance movement against Spanish rule in Peru. Berquist led a classroom discussion, followed by breakout sessions led by CSULB history students.
After a campus tour, Orozco, a 2014 CSULB graduate, led a student life presentation by describing the thrill of discovering her life’s calling inside a college classroom.
“My life changed when I took my first cultural studies class at Long Beach,” Orozco said. “There are so many voices that go unheard, and so often we hear only one side of the conversation. I realized then I wanted to teach an ethnic studies class and stress how important it is for people of color to speak up and be part of the conversation.”
CSULB Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) Student Organization President Justin Hatchett made a tremendous impression on the Lynwood students by rejecting the socioeconomic barriers that conspire to hold back students of color.
“It doesn’t matter where I come from,” Hatchett said. “It only matters where I am going.”
This sentiment resonated with Lynwood High senior Shayla Ritchie.
“The things that inspired me at CSULB were the students – students like me who share the same struggle, who can succeed no matter what their background, Ritchie said. “Hearing their stories motivate me to pursue my future. Those students opened my eyes.”
The visit concluded with a college-bound workshop where the students met with representatives from EOP, student support services and the Dreamers Success Center, learning about the admissions and application process, financial aid, scholarships and the resources and support available to undocumented students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Orozco and Berquist plan to make College Bridge an annual spring event, where ethnic studies students will review the same passage on Tupac Amaru and participate in a series of workshops.
“For Lynwood Unified students, college is more than a dream, it is their birthright as Americans,” Superintendent Gudiel Crosthwaite said. “The College Bridge Exchange at CSULB gives our students the opportunity to see the inclusiveness that is reshaping higher education, and demonstrates how their presence and participation is vital to their future success as well as the democratic process. Thank you to Ms. Orozco and Dr. Berquist for providing this service on behalf of our community.”